Difference Between Sleet and Snow

Sleet vs Snow

Precipitation can take many different forms in countries with a cold climate and not only as rainfall. In such places, one has to remain prepared for foul weather with precipitation in different forms such as sleet, hailstorm, snow, hail having different properties. People remain especially confused between sleet and snow as both bring precipitation in the form of ice or snow. This article attempts to make clear the differences between sleet and snow.


Precipitation begins high up in the skies, in the form of snow, but it becomes sleet when the snow melts on its way down to the surface of the earth. However, as it falls through the air layers, in the places where the temperature is below freezing, this melted snow refreezes as it enters the atmosphere where the temperature is low. This form of precipitation is partially snow and partially rain and the two are mixed to be referred as sleet.

Another form of sleet is when the precipitation takes place in the form of ice pellets. When snowflakes in their journey downwards become warm because of high temperature they melt, but refreeze when the temperature becomes lower. This refreezing and melting a few times makes the precipitation turn into ice pellets that are referred to as sleet.

To be sure and to understand it well in terms of the glossary of the met. man, sleet is a mixture of rain and snow. Ice pellets that are called sleet hit the surface so hard that they bounce with a clicking sound.


Snow is a type of precipitation and we call it snowfall when it is snowing. Snowflakes reach the ground in the same form that they are formed high up in the skies. Snow contains very small ice particles in granular form. Snow is light in weight and feels like cotton flakes. For snow to reach the ground as it is, it is necessary for weather near the surface to be below freezing temperatures so that no melting of precipitation takes place in between its downward journey. Thus, snowfall takes place when the temperatures in the atmosphere are below freezing right from where precipitation starts to the point where it strikes the ground. If temperatures of a few layers or pockets of air in between are above freezing point, we still get snowfall if it does not get the time to melt.

What is the difference between Sleet and Snow?

• When the precipitation is in the form of flakes of ice, we call it snowfall, but when it is in the form of a mixture of rain and snow or in the form of ice pellets, precipitation is termed sleet.

• Sleet is harder than snow.

• Sleet falls and bounces off the surface, whereas snow gets deposited in layers.

• Temperatures are required to be below freezing throughout the downward journey of ice that is formed at high altitudes to reach the ground in the form of snow.

• When snow melts coming in contact with warmer air currents several times and refreezes upon reentering the atmosphere, it turns into ice pellets called sleet.